It’s Never Too Late for Sartre

Mentioned before that, apart from hearing their voices via the excellent writing of Andy Martin, I’d kinda resigned myself to never really getting to grips with Sartre or Camus in any technical philosophical sense. Those strange foggie-froggies that predated the even foggier (mostly French) PoMo’s destined to be left in the mists of time as I ploughed my own PoPoMo furrows.

Sartre vs Camus – The Boxer and the Goalkeeper
(aka Philosophy Fight Club) by Andy Martin

So I was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon this 2 minute explanation of Sartre’s Existentialism by Open Culture, narrated by Stephen Fry.

(Hat tip to Dr Jim Walsh of Conway Hall Ethical Soc, who tweeted the link.)
(Shout out also to excellent collection of resources at Open Culture.)

Obviously, I have little idea if it’s a good summary in any objective sense, but it is very simple, very clear and eminently sensible to my mind.

Having said it’s sensible – humanity is something we shape by shaping ourselves individually because there is no absolute or god-given template – was there ever any doubt? Obviously the freedom implied is scarily nihilist and relativist to anyone concerned with moral cohesion, and who isn’t?

Now where have we all heard that before? Sartre’s freedom is our life-sentence – to a “lead role in a cage” to “trade heaven for hell“.
Existentialism because of that nature of our existence.

Fear doesn’t change facts, it shapes our real world responses, so long as we’re allowed to understand them. And I can see now that, whilst their characters and appearances and voices were chalk and cheese, Sartre and Camus were of a piece.

A little enlightenment?

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[See also – Sartre vs Camus – The Boxer and the Goalkeeper (2012)]

[See also – Anglophone understanding of French thought (2017)]

[See also – Pairs or Triples, it’s about relationships. (2018)]

[See also – Finding a voice (2018)]

[Post Note – also need to follow-up the infuriating conflation of existential (as in threat) with existentialism. Never the twain.]


Also published on Medium.

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